How to Clean Your Cat’s Ears

Although cats are very meticulous about their own self-grooming, there are times when it will be necessary to step in and help them out. If you need to administer medication for ear mites, your vet may recommend that you clean the ears before doing so. The process may seem intimidating, but if you follow this process, it should go rather smoothly.

What You Will Need:

  • Cotton balls or Q-tip swabs
  • Ear Cleanings solution
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • A large, thick towel
  • Cat treats

How to Clean those Kitty Ears:

  1. Find your cat.
  2. Once you’ve gotten hold of your cat, make sure he is in a calm frame of mind by offering a few minutes of stroking and cuddling.
  3. Swaddle your cat within the towel (making sure his legs and feet are in a comfortable position, not twisted or bent) and hold him on your lap. The swaddling will prevent him from breaking free or scratching you during the ear cleaning process. However, cats do bite, so be careful, especially if your cat has a tendency to do so.
  4. Inspect each ear carefully. The inside of the ears should be pink, perky and odor free, even if there is a buildup of wax or dirt. If there is any white, yellow or greenish discharge or puss, or there appears to be redness, black scabs, swelling or foul odor, consult your veterinarian immediately. For more information regarding the signs and symptoms of feline ear infections, visit Paw Prints & Purrs Inc..
  5. Gently wipe the outside of the interior ear (the pink part) with the cotton ball or Q-tip. DO NOT insert the cotton ball or Q-tip into the ear canal!
  6. Following the directions on the ear cleaning solution, placing one or two drops in each ear, working on one ear at a time.
  7. Rub the base of each ear to work the cleaning solution in.
  8. Release your cat for about 5 minutes. This will allow him time to shake his head, thus helping to dislodge the debris within.
  9. After about 5 minutes, pick your cat up again and swaddle him once more in the towel (again, make sure his legs and feet are in a comfortable position).
  10. With the cotton ball or Q-tip, gently wipe away the dislodged debris. Again, DO NOT insert the cotton ball or Q-tip into the ear canal!
  11. If there is stubborn wax build-up or dirt around the outer ear or in the crevices, dampen the Q-tip or cotton ball with either hydrogen peroxide or and wipe. This should do the trick.
  12. Release your cat from the towel, praise him highly for getting through the ordeal, and follow that up with cat treats.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • It is best to attempt the ear cleaning when your cat is sleepy, or in an affectionate mood. If your cat seems agitated or overly playful, simply wait to do the cleaning, if possible.
  • Only use ear cleaning solutions designed specifically for cats. You can find feline ear cleaning solutions at most pet stores, or you can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Always read labels carefully and follow all instructions when using any feline ear cleaning solution.
  • Cat’s ears are sensitive: Never place hydrogen peroxide, or any other substance (other than cat-specific ear cleaning product) directly into your cat’s ear canal unless specifically directed by a veterinarian.
  • It is always best to have another person around to help you when you are cleaning your cat’s ears, even if it’s just to help keep your cat calm during the process.
  • Never poke or prod your cat’s ear canal. Even if you see a piece of wax or other debris that appears easy to remove, it is best to leave it up to a veterinarian, or you may risk injuring your cat’s ear or eardrum.
  • Always be gentle when handling your cat’s ears, especially if you suspect he has an infection. Cat’s ears are quite sensitive and handling them too roughly can cause unnecessary pain.
  • When in doubt, always seek the advice of a veterinarian. For help finding a qualified veterinarian in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, or visit the Yellow Pages.


  1. Our veterinarian told us to NEVER use olive oil for any ears. The oil is a breeding ground for mites and bacteria and only worsens the condition inside the ear.

  2. A cats ears are “L” shaped, you won’t hurt him by going in a little bit with a Q-tip. I have to clean my white Persians ears, as she makes both a lot of wax and eye secretions. Just remember to be gentle, and they will appreciate it in the long run.

  3. Cat's mum says:

    The point about not pushing a Q-tip into the ear canal is that it may be pushed in with it and make for problems at the time or later. It is best not to do it.

  4. Samismyfakename says:

    Really? I didn’t know! (Angry face.)

  5. Yes, you can and should most definitely use Q-tips to clean your cat’s ears. Not too deep. The L-shaped canals prevent damage to the ear drum. There is gunk that has to be removed. Then, apply ear cleaning solution, massage deeply till you hear “thwok, thwok” sounds and then let the cat shake out the excess. Wipe off the excess and the cat’s face with damp towel. Over next few days, repeat, repeat, repeat, till all the gunk comes out. Use lots of Q tips. Then, once ear is clean, put in medication to fight yeast. This is what most cats have, apart from ear mites. Yeast is smelly, and sticky blackish discharge from yeast itself and ear wax produced by cat. Mites are more grainy little specs, also black or brownish like coffee grinds. Each one requires separate treatment, or just use AccaRex, which does both. Use this med only after the ear canal is clean or you waste your money. Invest in a vet size otoscope on Amazon to see inside your cat’s ear. It is not rocket science to see what is going on. Don’t rely on vets solely. You must investigate yourself as well. It is your cat; you need to know it well and do your best. Check if there is any foreign matter like a foxtail in there, or if the eardrum is broken (will heal on its own), etc. If the ear drum is intact, a warm solution of mild soap and water to flush out the ears is useful, followed by a peroxide and water mix. Syringe it in, massage, shake out, wipe off. Use a mild blow dryer for a while to dry out the ears; don’t leave any water in there. I have a cat with a long standing problem, used five vets, did ear wash and curettage, but still had a problem. I will put him on natural raw homemade food and aggressively treat the yeast. It is doable and you don’t need heavy vet bills.

  6. My cat has an extreme case of green/yellow foul smelling pus coming from her ear and there is an excessive amount of it too. I don’t know what to do and how to treat it so any answers will help. She also has black specs, which I presume to be ear mites. Please help as I do not know what to do. Thank you.

  7. Melanie says:

    Yellow or green pus is often a sign of infection, especially when it is coming from the ear. (Ear mites are the most common cause of cat ear infections.) You should take your cat to the vet for treatment, as ear infections can be dangerous. If you haven’t taken your cat to the vet yet due to financial concerns, you can try going to an animal aid vet (just do a google search for “Animal Aid” for your city), which are usually less expensive than a regular vet. Another option is to visit the websites of some of your nearby vets, as they sometimes have a coupon for new customers.
    If you want to try cleaning your cat’s ears as a way to get rid of the infection, selecting a cat ear wash that contains tea tree oil would be a good choice; according to WebMD, tea tree oil can be used to treat ear infections, and it is also an antiparasitic. (Ear mites are a parasite.)
    Source: WebMD – Ear Infections in Cats: Causes, Treatment and Prevention
    Source: WedMD – Tea Tree Oil
    Source: Pets & Parasites – Ear Mites

  8. Warning: Tea tree oil can be toxic to cats.

    I have read in numerous places that tea tree oil is toxic to cats (and dogs), unless it is diluted. I would not recommend using this on your little ones as it could cause a severe reaction.

    Please do an internet search on this if you need further information. Google will give you numerous pages on this topic.

    My two kitties often lick/clean each other’s ears. In this situation, use of tea tree oil could end up negatively effecting other pets in home as well.

  9. How does an indoor cat get yeast infections in his ears?

  10. Caroline says:

    A little learning can be a dangerous thing. Where cats’ ears are concerned, it is too easy to do damage, so take them to the vet. Most vets will be understanding if finance is a problem and will advise on what things can be done by you at home. If not, find another vet, but don’t try things out on your cat – many things are that are OK for us, can be lethal for cats; drugs, foods, plants, etc.
    Incidentally, never go in, even a little bit, into the cat’s ear with a q-tip; accidentally pushing wax further into the ear canal could irreversibly damage the cat’s eardrum. First stop, vet clinic!

  11. To Lydia Mae’s point, there are natural solutions without tea tree oil like EcoEars for Cats that can be used at home, but if your cat has pus or has been in fight, you should take your cat to the vet.

Leave a Comment